News location:

Canberra Today 15°/19° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Poetic city will come alive to verse

Jacqui Malins. Photo: Zach Polis.

CANBERRA has always been a poetic city, but a new festival puts that into upper case with the new “Poetic City Festival”.

The event is the brainchild of Jacqui Malins, familiar to readers as the director of Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry, who says the city will come alive to the sight and sounds of versifying in performances, installations and events around town in March and April.

A highlight will be an outdoor poetry cinema running over two nights where short poetry videos will be screened and poets paid a fee of $50 for selected videos.

Then in “Haiku 4 You”, local haikus with an urban-flavoured slant will appear around the city on tear-off-strip posters for passers-by to take away.

Malins is also planning a live multilingual poetry performance as part of “Poetic City”, where poets will perform a 10-minute set of original poetry to a backdrop of projected images with English captions.

“It’s Mother Tongue’s fifth straight year now and I count it as a success,” Malins says.

“The community has turned it into something wonderful. Some people do a poem for one time only and are satisfied and for others it’s been a stepping stone into being in the wider poetry scene.”

The venture was co-founded by Malins and fellow-poet Lauren Harvey in 2015, ready for the first Mother Tongue Multilingual Poetry Showcase at the Multicultural Fringe Festival in February 2016.

In a conscientious decision, they opted for MCs who were multilingual or of diverse, non-white background, possible in Canberra’s diverse community, and found increasingly sophisticated ways of integrating poetry and translation or paraphrase.

At the Fringe again in 2017, with Malins’ alone at the helm, Asefeh Abedini, Vesna Cvjeticanin, Karina Palomita and Anita Patel created “Homespun”, a multilingual work in six languages. When the Fringe folded, Mother Tongue joined the National Multicultural Festival in 2018 and ran the Languages Showcase in 2019 and 2020, also presenting poetry nights at Smith’s Alternative, and in the past year, Zoom sessions which have brought in poets around the world.

“The event remains voluntary and it’s grown steadily, which is exciting, but there’s a limit as to how much I can fit in while earning a living and making my own work,” Malins says.

She lives the “gig” life, doing projects with bodies like Tuggeranong Arts Centre while carrying out her own art practice, which brings together printmaking, text, video, drawing, photography and performance. 

After the festival, Malins will be stepping back and she’s looking out for poets who live in Canberra and are interested in being part of Mother Tongue’s future.

“it would be wonderful to see it go on if there’s someone else who wants to take it on… I can’t bring the same energy to it, it’s time to pass it on to someone else,” she says.

“I’m happy to pass the brand on or help someone create their own brand.”

Interested Canberra poets should contact Malins at

“Poetic City Festival”, Canberra, March 15-April 26, follow at

To get involved in the festival, poets can:

  • Email up to five haiku to with the subject line “Haiku 4 You” by March 19.
  • Poets should email a link to videos by March 12 to with the subject heading “Poetry Cinema”.
  • Multilingual poets based in or near Canberra should email their poem to by February 26, with an English translation or paraphrase and 10-20 usable images.

Who can be trusted?

In a world of spin and confusion, there’s never been a more important time to support independent journalism in Canberra.

If you trust our work online and want to enforce the power of independent voices, I invite you to make a small contribution.

Every dollar of support is invested back into our journalism to help keep strong and free.

Become a supporter

Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

Helen Musa

Helen Musa

Share this

Leave a Reply

Related Posts


Enchanting program of magical music.

On their first Australian tour, violinist Noa Wildschut and pianist Elisabeth Brauss captivated the audience at Llewellyn Hall with an enchanting program of magical music, writes reviewer DANTE COSTA.

Follow us on Instagram @canberracitynews